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Motorcycle Specials #2: Ossie Neal's Racers

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 22:44
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[Martin Squires is an illustrator extraordinaire whose work appears regularly in Classic Motorcycle magazine.  He provides a slightly different view on the old bike scene through his art, and this is the second of his 'Motorcycle Specials' series for The Vintagent.]
In Janurary 2015 I sketched Ossie Neal’s Scott Hill Climb outfit, over the following months I sketched two more of Ossie’s motorcycles which are now championed by his daughter Sheelagh.
Ossie was a well known racer during the 1950s and beyond, riding well into his eighties. Before taking up the sport of motorcycling, Ossie was a real sportsman competing in boxing, speed skating and cycling. He turned to motorcycles after a knee injury. Ossie’s first bike was a Scott which he road raced, he then went on to use various other machines such as the Triumph and Velocette illustrated here. Ossie travelled the country in a converted ambulance to various hill climbs and sprints with his wife, son Pat and daughter Sheelagh. Ossie’s wife passengered for him first, then when the children were old enough they would passenger too.
Ossie Neal racing his Scott Special outfit
The Scott was converted into a sidecar outfit by Ossie, by lowering and lightening it. His bikes always sport a plethora of holes as Ossie was always drilling out unnecessary metal in order to make the machines lighter. The blue colour is a homage to the Bugatti that he could newer afford. Colours on the bikes became a bit of an Ossie trademark; the blue colour on the Triumph came about because Ossie worked for Cambridgeshire County Council as a waterworks engineer and it was the colour that was used to paint their doors. Not only did Ossie use the paint but he also used the top quality steel pipe he used for plumbing for building the sidecar frame on the Scott. Whilst working for the council a new pumping station was built to his design which coincidently included a large workshop and a long driveway.
The 250cc Triumph started as a road racer in the early 1950s, it was turned into a sprint machine later in the decade, with further modifications using BRM H16 parts in the 1960s. The bike is still campaigned by  Sheelagh where it’s allowed as the exhaust emits 126 decibels which is too high for some events. It runs 14.5 second quarter miles on straight petrol as apparently it didn’t like methanol. The compression is 7 - 8 to 1, and the bike doesn’t have a power band it just provides straight torque all the way.
The Velocette barrel was made from two different barrels in order to give high compression. Many parts on these bikes show what an engineer Ossie Neal was, from copper exhausts on the Scott to variable screw in jets so that they didn’t have to be changed at a meeting. Ossie’s Irish heritage is apparent on the machines as he used to attach coins to various parts of the bikes for good luck. Sheelagh has been asked to identify  one of his bikes in the past and when she saw a coin on the machine she had no doubt it was one of his.                                                                                                                                                  
Seeing these specials out of the workshop and being used by Sheelagh makes me so happy and I’m sure it would make Ossie happy too. These bikes are built for a purpose and that is racing. Many machines like this that are not used and I tend to agree with Sheelagh when she says that if the bike goes ‘bang’ then at least it was doing what it was built to do when it does. [The VMCC holds an Ossie Neal Memorial Sprint - check here]
Illustration and Words by Martin Squires

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